Emotional toll of being a doctor

Giving bad news

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Topics: Your wellbeing
Lynne Sykes is an ST5 Medical Registrar in North West Deanery.

I had to explain to a patient and their relatives that the patient was dying. I led the conversation gently and explained what we thought was going on and that it was very likely that he was entering the last few hours of his life.

His wife and daughter said: 'Thank you for being so honest'. A moment later, they told me: 'You must have the worst job in the world, you're tired, it's the middle of the night and here you are telling complete strangers that they're about to lose a loved one'.

Then, that spell was broken, I was no longer just a doctor to them, they gave me a hug. They apologised that I'd had to come and tell them what they already knew, but didn't want to admit.

What more compassion and empathy could you ask for, not from your doctor, but from your patient's relatives? I cried silently whilst the chaplain read the last rites. I cry again now because I can't bring the patient's name to memory.